Ranger to join force

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DRC/David Minton
Tracy Murphree, left, talks with Lee Howell on Thursday at a reception honoring Howell, who is leaving the Denton County Sheriff’s Office to become the Denton Police Department’s new chief.

For the second time in a month, Denton County Sheriff Benny Parkey has filled a key position on his command staff with a respected officer from another agency.

Parkey announced last week that, in the wake of Chief Deputy Lee Howell's resignation to become Denton police chief, he had appointed Blaise Mikulewicz, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Dallas office, to take over as chief deputy.

On Thursday, Parkey made another announcement. In the wake of the retirement of Criminal Investigations Capt. Jeff Wawro, Texas Ranger Tracy Murphree will fill the vacancy.

"I'm very proud that I've been able to fill these positions with such capable officers," Parkey said Thursday.

"Tracy is well-known and liked in this agency already. He has assisted us with a number of investigations. I've worked with him for 12 years, and I know what he is capable of," he said. "He has access to many state assets that we will benefit from, and he will be an asset to our organization."

It is a tragic road that led Murphree to the sheriff's office, but he said he is excited to start working with so many people he knows and respects.

"When God closes a door, he opens another one," Murphree said in an interview Thursday. "I feel like God opened this door for me."

Murphree, 45, will retire from the Rangers on Nov. 30 and report for duty with the sheriff's office Dec. 1. He began with the Texas Department of Public Safety 23 years ago and worked in the Texas Highway Patrol and later in narcotics before being promoted to the elite Ranger service 13 years ago. He served his entire duty as a Ranger in Denton County. Tracy Murphee Benny Parkey

Nine years ago, Murphree married, and he and wife, Candace, had three children, now ages 8, 7 and 4, in addition to her son, who is 17. Candace was the love of his life, he said. But on Sept. 10, while the couple was participating in homecoming activities in Sanger, she fell from the back of a golf cart when it hit uneven pavement. Her head struck the pavement. She died Sept. 11 and her organs were donated. Candace saved the lives of seven people, Murphree said, and her corneas allowed two additional people to regain eyesight.

"I doubt that we were going five miles an hour. She lost her balance and landed on the back of her head. It happened right in front of me," he said. "And I couldn't do a thing about it. And I'm used to helping people, and I couldn't help her. The doctor told me that she had suffered an unsurvivable injury. She had made me promise to donate her organs if anything ever happened to her, so that decision was easy."

Murphree, however, and their four children were devastated without her, and now he must put his children's needs first. Those needs include having a dad who keeps regular hours and doesn't respond to other people's tragedies in the middle of the night.

That's what a Ranger does, he said. He brings the resources of the state and his expertise in criminal investigations any time another agency needs him.

That wasn't a problem when Candace was there with the children. Now, she is gone.

"I always felt like Candace and I shared that badge. Now, I don't want to do it anymore. I can't be that guy anymore," Murphree said. "I won't be on the front lines, but I'll still be involved in investigations, and I can pass on my expertise. I can't be that guy, but the next best thing is going to work for a great organization and hope that my experience will benefit them."

He called the sheriff's office a "class organization."

"I know these guys. I know their strengths and weaknesses," he said. "I'm excited about getting started. I'm grateful to the sheriff for this opportunity. I intend to work as hard at this job as I ever have and make him proud that he chose me."

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is dfielder@dentonrc.com .

 


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